Jokes Aside, Shula Could Use Win

Just what Mike Shula needed, right?

Three seasons of cultivating a new, clean image for Alabama football, and mostly succeeding in that task, Shula comes to Big D and runs into this.

At the FOX Sports Cotton Bowl welcome at the Wyndham Anatole hotel on Tuesday, a comedian/ventriloquist named Jeff Dunham was cracking wise on many things relating to Alabama and Texas Tech. Then he suggested the party that night would continue later at a club.

And no worries, people, he said, delivering the punch line: Mike Shula will put his credit card down to pick up the whole tab.


Funny stuff to an outsider, whose perception of Alabama in the first half of this decade might be colored by Mike Price's ill-fated night of partying in Pensacola, Fla., in the spring of 2003.

The crowd laughed.

Shula, sitting next to his pregnant wife Shari in the hotel's auditorium, wagged a finger as if to say, ``Not me.''

At the next day's practice, Shula was asked what he thought of that particular joke.

``I've been out once since I've been here,'' Shula said, cracking a grin. ``To Wal-Mart. For diapers. We forgot them.''

Price bought rounds for the patrons at Tuscaloosa drinking establishments; Shula changes diapers and watches Dora the Explorer videos with daughters Samantha and Brooke when he isn't coaching and recruiting.

If Shula isn't squeaky clean off the field, well, the Warren Commission might have been onto something with its single bullet theory to explain the Kennedy assassination.

Shula has taken great strides in advancing Alabama football on a number of fronts: in recruiting, in player conduct and discipline, and in restoring its sullied image.

All those help keep the handsome 40-year-old in good graces with his bosses.

This season's 9-0 start and its accompanying peak of a No. 3 BCS ranking appeared to allay a lot of fears about Shula's ability to win key games and persevere in close ones, things his regime had not done in its previous two seasons.

But with losses in its final two games, including a flat, unimaginitive start at Auburn, the questions are creeping back into the picture. Shula's first two teams lost their last three games of the season. His current team will follow suit unless it somehow lassos the rootin' tootin' Red Raiders on Monday.

Shula earned himself a raise and a contract extension with the nine-game winning streak, spiked by the rout of Florida and a very critical home win over Tennessee.

His long-term future will have more to do with sustaining the recruiting and winning, notching the scalps of Auburn and LSU, and producing some postseason success.

Texas Tech is a 3-point favorite against the Crimson Tide and there are good reasons for that, not the least of which was the downer on which Alabama finished the season.

A win over the Red Raiders at the Cotton Bowl will go a long way in helping Shula steer clear of being the butt of many more jokes.

BamaMag Top Stories